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Business Watch – Monday March 5, 2012

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Brent Clanton

-Energy Policy-
Energy policy is dominating the election-year program at the annual CERA Week Energy Conference, beginning Monday at the Hilton Americas-Houston Downtown. The conference will tackle issues including the plummeting price of natural gas, tension in the Persian Gulf and the revival of U.S. oil production.
The seminar will feature speakers CEO’s Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, Peter Voser of Royal Dutch Shell and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric.

-Gas Prices-
It may not surprise you to learn a new report from the St. Louis Fed points to Wall Street speculators as the culprits behind rising gas prices, and not oil companies. The gas prices have risen by as much as 15-percent. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wants the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to take immediate action to limit excessive speculation, with 67 other members of Congress backing his demands. “What we want to do is limit the amount of oil that any individual corporation can control in a given day,” says Sanders. The Fed says excessive speculation played a significant role in oil price increases between 2004 and 2008 and their subsequent collapse.

-BP’s Settlement-
BP’s multibillion-dollar settlement over its deadly 2010 oil spill in the Gulf is removing uncertainty about the potential financial damages it faces. BP’s spill-related costs were estimated at $200billion, but the figure will likely be less than a quarter that amount. One by-product of the settlement is a system for monitoring health concerns, and compensation for people whose illnesses are found to be linked to the disaster.

-United Airlines Takes Over Houston-Based Continental Airlines
How was your flight on United over the weekend? Delays and long telephone wait times were the norm as United swallowed up Continental’s operations, but the company says more flights were on time Sunday than Saturday. A quarter of the company’s flights on Saturday were delayed 30 minutes or more, but 99 percent of all flights were completed. Of domestic United flights Sunday, 83% were on time through the afternoon. The company says its on-time goal is 80 percent.

-Coupon Clippers-
Attention, extreme-coupon clippers: Retailers are on to you! While coupon redemptions rose more than 60% last year, some stores are taking steps against extreme coupon clippers. Rite-Aid, Wal-Mart and Kroger are making it harder to go to extremes with coupons buy limiting the number coupons you could use in one day, or make it more time consuming to try to pay nearly nothing. They are even considering steps to even make money with coupons. Jeannette Pavini of says there are many legitimate deals you can take advantage of: “A lot of coupons now are online and people don’t take the time they just assume they’re going to get a sale price,” says Pavini.

-Apple & Proview Electronics-
Remember that Chinese court battle between Apple and Proview Electronics, which is challenging Apple Inc.’s use of the iPad trademark? Chinese media reports a creditor wants to have the ailing computer monitor maker liquidated to repay $8.6 billion in debts. Fubon Insurance is seeking $8.68 million in debts. The reports say it has filed an application to have Proview declared bankrupt. Apple is appealing a ruling against its claim to the iPad trademark which it says it bought from Proview in 2009.

Banks left a record $1.08 trillion on deposit overnight at the European Central Bank on Friday. The figures released today exceeded the record deposited Thursday and reflects the flood of cash released into the European banking system by the central bank.

-Carlos Slim-
Carlos Slim, Mexico’s telecommunications tycoon, is the richest person on Earth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Slim’s net worth fell $478.4 million in a day to $68.5 billion on Friday, as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett placed second and third on the list.

Code-writers for digital start-ups are changing the face of “geekdom”. Former engineers from diverse backgrounds are giving rise to a new title: “brogrammer”.
Think frat house moniker “bro” and “programmer,” the term has become the subject of a Facebook Inc. group joined by more than 21,000 people. As one online site posited, “How does a programmer become a” brogrammer”? Drink Red Bull, beer and “bro-tein” shakes.

-Dow Jones-
The Dow Jones dropped a fraction to close at 12,977…and ended the week with a dip of 4-one-hundredths of a percent.
The S&P 500 lost three-tenths to 1,369…but gained 3-tenths percent for the week.
The Nasdaq dropped 4-tenths to 2,976…but for the week gained 4-tenths percent.
Crude-oil pulled back $2.14 to settle at $106.70 a barrel.
Natural Gas down 7-cents to $2.41
Gold dropped $12.40 to land at $1,709.80/ounce.

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